Leeds fixture postponement has given Erik ten Hag an unexpected Manchester United challenge – George Smith

However, both clubs and each set of supporters received the news they had been fearing early on Monday evening. The Premier League confirmed that, despite fixtures resuming this weekend, United's clash with their arch-rivals from West Yorkshire will not be going ahead, with insufficient policing available cited as the reason for the postponement.

Police officers from all over the country are having to be redeployed to London over the weekend as the country prepares for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday. It is set to be one of the biggest security operations the country has ever witnessed.

While the situation is unprecedented and cannot be helped, it is a hammer-blow for United, as they would have targeted the Leeds fixture as an ideal way to try and sign off for the international break in style. Instead, a much more low-key affair in Moldova against Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League will signal the end of their first section of the season.

After last Sunday's trip to Crystal Palace was called off as a mark of respect in remembrance of the late Queen, United, by the time they resume their Premier League campaign in the derby against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on October 2, will have gone exactly a month without playing in the league. A two-week gap for the international break threatened to damage United's recent momentum, but a four-week hiatus is likely to leave Erik ten Hag facing an even bigger challenge, even if the extended period without a game will allow him the chance to reflect on the season so far.

But while the postponement of the Leeds game is an unwanted situation for everyone, it does present Ten Hag with the opportunity to deploy his strongest line-up against Sheriff on Thursday night. United lost their Europa League opener against Real Sociedad last week, going down 1-0 at Old Trafford, and Ten Hag used the opportunity to rotate his pack, making six changes.

However, it failed to have the desired impact, leaving United pointless in Group E, meaning they have a little bit of pressure on their shoulders to get off the mark against the Moldovan champions. The Reds are overwhelming favourites to win the group and progress to the knockout stages with minimal fuss, such is the strength in depth they have in almost every area of the squad.

But now that the clash with Leeds, which was scheduled to take place just under 72 hours later, is off the agenda, the trip to Sheriff gives Ten Hag the opportunity to deploy his strongest team, perhaps similar to the one that recently beat Arsenal. The likes of Harry Maguire, Cristiano Ronaldo, Fred and summer signing Casemiro all came into the side against Sociedad and each failed to leave their calling card.

Had the trip to Crystal Palace three days later gone ahead none of them would have made the starting line-up. But with Leeds having been scheduled to face United three days after the clash with Sheriff, there was a good chance they'd have returned to the side for the trip to Moldova.

But now that the Leeds fixture has been wiped off the calendar, Ten Hag has the chance to redeploy his strongest line-up against Sheriff without taking too many risks. It will be another 17 days before the Reds' next match.

Therefore, Ten Hag could recall the likes of Raphael Varane, Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho to the starting line-up, as United go in search of their first win of their European campaign. If that happens, it means several players on the periphery of the regular starting line-up risk going several weeks without playing a sufficient amount of minutes (at club level), such as Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof, Donny van de Beek, Fred and possibly even Ronaldo.

It means Ten Hag has got to weigh up the challenge of naming his best possible team to get a result and keep those who are not featuring in his immediate plans happy. It is an unexpected situation for the Dutchman to have to be in.

However, the club is in desperate need of ending its trophy drought and the Europa League offers them the chance to do exactly that, especially if Ten Hag throws hell to the wind in Moldova and sends out a statement of intent.


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